Once Again, Ohio Racetrack VLT Push Looms

by John Kady

A supporter of video lottery terminals at Ohio's seven racetracks said Nov. 8 there is an "excellent chance" the proposal would go before Ohio voters in a November 2005 referendum.

The Ohio Senate passed a proposal in May in the form of a constitutional amendment. The legislation died in the Ohio House of Representatives, which came up three votes shy of the required two-thirds majority.

The legislature took the summer off but was scheduled to reconvene Nov. 9. The issue is expected to resurface.

Sen. Louis Blessing, whose district includes River Downs near Cincinnati, said much of the opposition is coming from gambling interests in neighboring states.

"Those casinos have a lot of money," Blessing said. "But I think (the proposal) stands an excellent chance" of being on the ballot next November.

Blessing said casinos and other gambling interests in oppose the measure because so many Ohioans venture to nearby states to gamble. Indiana has riverboat casinos, while West Virginia has racetracks with VLTs.

Rep. William Steitz, also a supporter of VLT proposal, said he would try to get a vote on the legislation before the end of the year. Steitz said he would like to amend the Senate version to present a different form of distribution of the proceeds, estimated at $500 million a year. The money would go to a variety of educational programs.

The tracks would be required to have a minimum of 1,800 devices, with a maximum of 2,500. Gov. Bob Taft has opposed any form of VLT legislation.